Review by Achilles Heel
"Skateboarding fun without the painful operations!"
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and it sequel were absolutely huge games on Dreamcast, Playstation, and N64. As such, it was inevitable that one would come to Nintendo’s ‘lil wonder machine, Game Boy Advance. While the Game Boy Color editions were disappointing, the GBA version of THPS2 looked to be a heck of a lot closer to the console editions that before, featuring 3D gameplay instead of the cheap imitation displayed on the GBC. The masses were desperate for this game, too: the graphics looked absolutely astonishing. Given the factors going for this, I got it with my GBA on launch. And did it live up to the hype? Close, very very close, but not quite.
As far as I can see, there isn’t a story in THPS2. You’re simply a skater looking to do the best he can. Of course, the lack of plot really is surprising, given the fact that THPS2 is, after all, a sports game!
Taking on the role of a pro skateboarder, you can do basically do whatever one of those guys in the X-Games can do, and more! You have six basic action to perform, all of which earn points: ollies, grinds, flip tricks, grab tricks, special tricks, or manuals. An ollie is just skateboarding lingo for jumping while keeping the board under you; grinding is lingo for ollieing onto a surface on pressing the board down onto it. The grind also allows you to use moves such as handplants and wallrides, too. A flip trick is just that: flipping the board beneath your feet for tricks such as Pop Shove-it and Kickflip. Grab tricks are also just that: grabbing the board and performing tricks like a Melon or Madonna. A special trick is a skater-specific trick that can be any sort of move, but a button combination has to be pressed for it to be utilized. Lastly, a manual is an altogether different sort of trick: by pressing up and down (or vice versa) quickly, your skater will perform a sort of wheelie with the skateboard. As the manual is best used after jumps, it can be used to “link” tricks together.
Trick linking is a whole other creature; by doing tricks in succession (and usually using a manual in between), the point value is multiplied. For instance, if you did a kickflip by itself, you might earn 200 points. However, if you landed into a grind in succession and earned 150 points from that, you’d get a total of 700 points. You did two tricks, so the first total of 350 points is multiplied by two. Doing even more tricks and linking them together is the best way to earn the most points possible.
All of this occurs in an 3D, isometric viewpoint, unlike the GBC incarnations of THPS. The gameplay here is nearly identical to the console versions! Many of the levels are changed around a bit (simply a few objects are moved), but the basic design remains the same. It’s amazing the designers were able to keep the awesome gameplay intact on a ‘lil handheld!
Modes of Play:
The meat of THPS2 is the “Career Mode”, in which you can choose from thirteen pro skaters including Tony Hawk, Bucky Lasek, and Bob Burnquist, all with different strengths and weaknesses and special tricks. There are six stages to traverse, in rather neat locales, such as a school, New York City, or an abandoned Air Force hanger. Four of the levels are “objective” stages; two are “competition”. In the objective stages, each one has ten goals to complete in a time limit of two minutes. Unfortunately, the objectives for each stage are all very similar. They all have three “get this score or higher” goals, for example, and they all also have you collect the floating S-K-A-T-E letters. The one breath of fresh air is the level-specific goal, such as knocking over all the fire hydrants in NYC. This isn’t a huge loss at all, but it’s still a bit irritating. The competition stages have you trying to the get the best possible score in one minute in three heats, the two of which count.
By completing these different levels, cash is earned. There are three ways it can be spent: editing stats, editing tricks, or in the Skate Shop. Editing stats allows you to improve all of your skater’s skills, such as ollieing and grinding. Editing tricks lets you buy more special moves to add to your skater’s arsenal; I particularly like the ability to change the button combination for tricks that have been bought. Finally, the Skate Shop sells new and better skateboards for your disposal.
All of the cash you receive counts towards your total; once the total is high enough, a new level is unlocked. Some people despise this sort of holding back and want everything at the start, but I personally like this way better. If everything is given to me at the start, I take it for granted and don’t appreciate it much at all.
THPS2 has your basic, vanilla “Free Skate” mode, of course, which allows you to go through any of the levels you’ve unlocked in the Career Mode. This is rather basic, but it allows you to screw around without worrying about a time limit. It also sports a Single Session mode which has a time limit of two minutes, as in Career Mode. I wonder about the reasoning behind playing this, since you playing it in Career Mode gives the exact same experience. Unfortunately, three modes shown on the consoles were left out of THPS2, the multiplayer, park editor, and skater creator. It’s really too bad about the multiplayer, since it’s easier to play a portable multiplayer game than on a console, because you can play anywhere! I understand why the park editor was omitted (for space issues), but I’m baffled about skater creation, quite frankly.
Vicarious Visions did a good job of getting everything working on the small GBA. Unfortunately, since you need to move quickly and do many tricks to do well, it’s hard on your hands! This really isn’t their fault, but Nintendo’s. Still, this is a noticeable downside.
In the beginning, I was getting really low scores and having trouble meeting the objectives. However, after a few hours, I had improved dramatically and was easily doing everything. The goals themselves really aren’t difficult, with the exception of one or two, and the opponents in the competition stages are weak. The only thing you could have problems with is your hands hurting from the controls, but that’s a completely different matter.
These are the best graphics on a handheld ever. Yes, I will go out on a limb and say that. Somehow, Vicarious Visions has managed to make all of the skaters and the environments out of polygons and completely 3D! This isn’t Star Fox quality, however: this looks a hell of a lot better, and it’s even a first generation game. The animation is excellent too, and it doesn’t look jerky at all. The levels look absolutely amazing and smooth. I just can’t believe that this is all on a handheld; THPS2 looks better than most anything the SNES ever had. It doesn’t reach the Playstation version, but it’s pretty respectable!
The GBA doesn’t have sound the quality of a Playstation, so putting in all these vocals would be a hard way to go. So, Shin’en was recruited, and they did a darned good job with it. The music is rock with a touch of techno and punk, and truly catchy. One of the advantages THPS on the consoles had was its awesome soundtrack; here, though the vocal are gone, it’s still great skateboarding rhythms! The sound effects are above average; the sound of you crashing into the pavement is irritating, but beyond that, they’re fine and do the job well.
The game can be completed with all thirteen skaters, so it’ll take you a while. Unfortunately, I wasn’t particularly motivated past the ninth skater to keep going; it’s almost exactly the same experience every time. However, there’s also all the “gaps” to find (areas in between one object and another), which will take a while, too. There are plenty of unlockables, though: each time Career Mode is completed, a new cheat is earned, and there are two skaters and another level to unlock. The cheats aren’t as good as those in, say, Goldeneye, but they’re still fun to play around with (particularly The Shadow, where your character is exactly that!).
For those of you who have an incarnation of THPS2 on the consoles, it’s more of the same. If you really loved it, or don’t have it on a console, THPS2 is one of the top games on Game Boy Advance. I can’t wait for THPS3, that’s for sure!
+ Awesome graphics
+ Great music
+ Excellent skateboarding fun
- Your hands might hurt!
- Might get repetitive
- Omission of a few modes
Overall Score (Not an average): 8.8/10
Rounded to GameFAQs Standards: 9/10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/06/01, Updated 11/08/01
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